Well, I think Minnetrista can rescind it’s emergency order now. Gov. Tim Walz announced last week that he will distribute $841 million in federal funds to cities, counties, and townships for coronavirus-related expenses. The city of Minnetrista is on the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s list to receive $579,517 of those funds and there is no requirement for a city to have an emergency order to receive them.
When I saw the amount I thought: How in the world would Minnetrista spend that much on COVID related anything? Then I remembered the advocacy of mail-in balloting by the National League of Cities and their state chapter the League of Minnesota Cities I wrote about here.
Do you think any of this money will be used to advocate for mail-in balloting and additional staff for ballot processing under the guise it’s COVID related?
Those vulnerable to COVID-19 should know that any resident can already request an absentee ballot or go to city hall to vote without crowds before the election. Mass/universal mail-in balloting opens the door to election fraud because it doesn’t provide the security in place at polling locations with supervision by election judges from different parties. No one can dispute there are plenty of incentives to manipulate election outcomes and we should make fraud more difficult, not easier.
Cities’ coronavirus relief funds must be spent by November 15 (isn’t that an interesting date?) or returned. There is no requirement to submit expenses for reimbursement as had previously been discussed. There is also no requirement for a city to have an emergency order in place to receive these funds. All a city needs to do is certify that they will follow state and federal guidelines for use of the relief funds and fill out a Coronavirus Relief Fund Certification Form to get the check.
Here are the official guidelines:
1. The distributed funds will be used by the local government only to cover those costs that:
a. Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (“necessary expenditures”), as described and defined by official federal guidance on section 601(d) of the Social Security Act, as added by section 5001 of Public Law 116-136 (“federal guidance”);
b. Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020, for the local government; and
c. Were or will be incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 1, 2020. A cost is incurred when the local government has expended funds to cover the cost.
2. The funds distributed pursuant to this certification will not be used by the local government in any manner contrary to federal guidance. This includes, but is not limited to:
a. As a revenue replacement for lower than expected tax or other revenue collections; and
b. For expenditures for which the local government has received other emergency COVID-19 supplemental funding for that same expense, regardless of the funding source.
Minnetrista has been keeping track of it’s COVID-19 related expenses and at our last council meeting had only identified a few hundred dollars, mostly from cleaning supplies, gloves and hand sanitizer. There is also plexiglass being installed in the lobby to protect administrative staff. We’ll have to wait to see if Minnetrista files for its $580K coronavirus relief check but I think it’s a pretty safe bet. It’s also a safe bet it will be spent on the election.